Did you know that April is National Foot Health Awareness Month? According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, approximately 20 percent of people have at least one foot problem annually. It may be the result of poor-fitting shoes, or the result of an underlying health problem such as peripheral neuropathy, diabetes or obesity.
The average person takes approximately 10,000 steps per day, which add up to about 3 million steps per year. We carry approximately four to six times our body weight across the ankle joint when climbing up stairs or walking steep inclines. Good foot health is essential for an active life.
With 26 bones plus 33 joints, our feet serve as the foundation for the rest of our body. If the feet are not mechanically sound, it can affect the knees, hips and even the lower back. You’ll need your feet to carry you an average of 115,000 miles in your lifetime, so, avoiding foot problems should be a priority.
Follow these tips to improve your feet health.
- Inspect your feet daily and use a mirror to check the bottom of your feet for injuries, cracks, peeling, or dry skin. This is especially important if you are diabetic to avoid infection or a non-healing wound.
- Wear shoes in public places where you may suffer cuts leading to infection, contract athlete’s foot fungus or plantar warts on the bottom of your feet.
- Dry your feet and between your toes after showering to avoid fungal infections. Then, moisturize feet and heels with a good lotion.
- Don’t leave nail polish on 24/7, which may lead to brittle nails or fungus. I recommend three weeks on and one week off every month.
- Remember your feet need sunscreen too! Apply between toes and on ankles to avoid sunburn and prevent skin cancer, which often goes unnoticed in this area of the body.
- Stretch your feet, ankles and lower legs daily and before exercising to keep the muscles strong and to avoid injury.
- Maintain a healthy weight through diet and exercise such as walking, stationary bike, or treadmill. Excess weight puts pressure on the feet leading to general foot pain, heel pain, stress fractures, circulatory problems and arthritis.
- Keep your diabetes under control by checking your fasting blood sugar daily. See your endocrinologist regularly and have an annual foot inspection with a podiatrist to check for problems such as loss of circulation or loss of sensation (neuropathy).
- Wear shoes with good support and a low heel. Keep high heels below 2 inches in height. If you like to wear flats or those trendy ballet flats, alternate with shoes having good support. Make sure shoes have enough space without rubbing or squeezing toes. Remember the “thumbnail rule” for space between end of shoe and toe and don’t forget your longest toe may be your second, not your first. Use custom orthotics to provide arch support.
- Replace your walking or exercise shoes every six months or 500 miles in order to avoid foot and heel pain when the inside of the shoe begins to wear and lose support.
- Your feet flatten as you age. There is a good chance you will not wear the same size in shoes your entire life.
- If your child complains of recurring foot pain, stumbles frequently or has foot problems such as in-toeing that makes him/her unable to keep up with peers in normal activities or sports, see a podiatrist for a thorough evaluation.
- Don’t play doctor! If you suffer a toe, foot or ankle injury, seek medical attention from a podiatrist. The sooner you are treated, the better outcome you will have. Untreated injuries can result in bones not healing properly, causing recurring pain, limited mobility and development of arthritis in the affected joints.
Vail is with Advanced Footcare Clinic, Findlay. Questions for Blanchard Valley Health System experts may be sent to Weekend Doctor, The Courier, P.O. Box 609, Findlay, OH 45839.